Arment Dietrich

The Nasty Truth about Content Marketing

By: Arment Dietrich | May 29, 2014 | 
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The Nasty Truth About Content MarketingBy Clay Morgan

I need to get this out from the get go.

I’m a believer in content marketing.

It is critical to the lead generation at Arment Dietrich.

Our content – blogs, guest posts, podcasts, and videos – are a part of about three-fourths of all qualified leads we generate.

However, there are a lot of claims being made about content marketing that are simply untrue.

The fact is these claims come from the same people who, in the 1990s, thought they were web designers even though they knew no code, and in the last decade thought the fact they could open a Facebook account made them a social media marketing expert.

You know who I’m talking about. Their pictures are in the dictionary next to words such as ninja, Jedi, guru, and charlatan.

Content marketing is succumbing to the same chicanery.

Build the Content and They Will Come

This is the big claim these days about content marketing and it is a lie: It goes something like, “just produce excellent content.”

Here’s the deal. I have written the best novel in the entire history of mystery novels. I actually have and that should be acknowledged. The fact that nobody has ever read it is irrelevant as I’ve adhered to the current teaching in content marketing and produced most excellent content.

I keep hearing variations on that theme. Just put it out there. Just write it and everything will change.

The problem is this is marketing, not a Kevin Costner movie. You have to do more than build it.

Newspapers, Again

The answer lies in the newspaper industry.

Every morning at around 4:30 or so, an interesting thing happens. A bundle of content mysteriously appears in my driveway. I’m writing this post on a Thursday, and today’s bundle had 46 pages of content.

Throughout the day, content is revised and I’m alerted via email, text, Facebook, and Twitter.

It is awesome.

The thing is, if you hire enough of the right people, you can match a newspaper’s ability to produce compelling content.

Now, the production of great content is very challenging on its own, but it isn’t the end of your work. Rather it is only the first step.

Content must be distributed and not just to anybody. It has to be distributed to the right people, the people who want the content and can benefit from it.

Content is not king. Distribution is. After all, if nobody reads your content, you might as well have written it on a piece of toilet paper and flushed it down. It becomes as effective as my novel, which is sitting in a filing cabinet.

Content Marketing Next Steps

First is to avoid the hype.

If someone tries to discuss “organic growth” with me, I’m likely to just stab them in the eyes.

Things going viral, organic growth, and people “finding” the content are actually the result of hard work. Usually that hard work is driven by a solid strategy.

If you are talking about content, part of the strategy is distribution.

Here are some questions you must ask:

  • How will people find the content you produce?
  • How are you going to consistently get the right content in the right hands?
  • How will they know when you have new content available?
  • Are you giving them the content in a manner they prefer?

The key is each audience has a way it prefers to receive content.

In some cases, they prefer the old ways – print in hand, which of course tends to be the priciest approach. Others like to learn of content through RSS feeds, email blasts, social media, or just by directly visiting the host website.

It’s up to you or your marketing team to discern how your readers want to receive your content and where potential new readers are hanging out.

Social should be in the mix, but here’s where the spin doctors kick in.

Just post your content on social media and everything will be fine.

Don’t you want to know how you will build the right audience on social media instead of any old audience?

Most importantly, think about how content contributes to your business goals.

If one of your goals is $1.5 million in growth during the next three years, write out a detailed pipeline.

Show yourself where the content marketing plan lies in both your marketing and in your sales efforts.

If you are hiring someone to handle your content marketing, make them draw it out. If they can’t, hire someone else.

Content marketing is like all digital marketing. You must determine what the real ROI is, and if you can’t get the content in front of the right eyeballs, the real ROI will be a big goose egg.

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

  • Totally agree re: “organic growth”
    It’s a misnomer, and one of the reasons the answer to “how can I make it go viral” is: have a strategy. That strategy needs to include why you’re using each channel and the relationships between channels in your prospect/lead funnel.
    Amanda over at Orbit had a good interview last month with some SEO / analytics smarty pants (http://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/analytics-experts/) and I was struck by how different their measurement approaches were. I think that’s half the battle with both content & distro…the question of why are we doing this, and how do we know when it’s working? You know who doesn’t answer those questions very often? Gurus.

  • Great content, Clay! Hope anyone fool enough to try and discuss “organic growth” hides the sharp objects! And just sayin…I love a good mystery!

  • Barb Sawyers

    So true. I am sick of the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. It’s hard work.

  • Barb Sawyers

    So true. I am sick of the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. It’s hard work.

  • While I see your point, I do worry that sometimes people get far too wrapped up in ‘strategy’ or ‘numbers’ or ‘uniques’ and miss the bigger picture. As with most things in life (religion, politics, etc.), I think having too narrow a focus on something can make you miss some of the richness or life – some of the ‘other side’edness’ (content people are allowed to make up words). Yes, numbers have to be used, and data is important. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Often, you can gain just as much ‘return’ by good old fashioned instinct and a nose honed to sniff out what works and what doesn’t. As an old new hound, surely you must agree. 😉

  • belllindsay I do agree, but as a old publisher, I know that if you don’t put the news in people’s hands, there’s no point.

    There is a true team in the production and distribution of content. I guess one of my beefs is very few people are talking about the distribution side, and that worries me.

  • ClayMorgan I’m with you on that. It does have to ‘be seen’. Otherwise, what’s the point. But, it reminds me of the good ol’ days of TV, when a new series or news show would start, and then be pulled after 10 episodes. “No one watched it!” – well, sheeesh, sometimes you have to wait and allow people to find it! They might see all the adds and what not, but not watch it until they hear feedback, etc., from people they trust. Sometimes, an audience needs time to grow – organically! {please don’t stab my eyeballs out – I need them for my work!!}

  • belllindsay ClayMorgan Have your intuition, and justify it. That’s how I think about these things. But your point is a good one Lindsay, I mean, “give the people what they want” doesn’t mean don’t have editorial point of view(s) and it certainly doesn’t mean that if something doesn’t work in the short term that you jettison it. That’s what having a strategy is all about, it’s about vision and guts and tenacity to see through what others won’t.

  • Ugg… I hate when people call themselves ninja or especially Jedi. A Jedi doesn’t need to brag he or she is a Jedi. 🙂
    –Tony Gnau

  • Don_Roy

    Thanks for sharing, Clay. Distribution is an element of content marketing strategy that seems to get pushed to the back burner as the focus is often on the product form (blog, video, etc.). But, you can have great content that is ineffective if it does not end up in front of the intended target. You make excellent points about giving your audience content that they prefer and in a form (channel) they prefer. It is not a matter of where we want them to access content but where is the most convenient place for them to consume. Driving traffic to our website or blog might be the ideal, but if your audience is more likely to consume on YouTube or Facebook adjust channel emphasis accordingly.

  • I agree with this 100%. In fact distribution is important especially to the right people. Where I find fallacy is the connection of content marketing and SEO. The fallacy that is it only online and digital. It is about getting the right content to the right people. Direct sales is often content marketing. I found you the decision maker….here is my company’s catalog, here is my expert engineer as a resource, here is my pitch in person, here is my sales sample to try out which could be a physical product or not.

    Would you rather have 1 million blog readers? Or just 5..the CEO’s of your 5 biggest potential clients. I will take the 5.

  • Don_Roy if you view content marketing as ‘I hope they find me on the web’ you are toast. That is part of it, but you are missing so much more opportunity, tactics and strategy.

  • We see this so frequently in health care marketing. Great information, great videos on hospital websites but no one visiting. Who wants to hang out on a hospital website! Creating good content is one thing but finding out where the health care consumer is in terms of seeking information has changed. Remember the waiting rooms with the Highlight magazine and other outdated print media that you saw maybe one or times annually?  The patient communities on social media have become a great point of reference for seeking information on niche topics and the marketers are listening to what they are saying. 

    It is no wonder that health care is taking heed of the retail marketing strategy and now often hiring retail execs to run their operations. Walgreens, CVS, Walmart etc have become an epicenter of health care as they understand their consumers, their health care habits, needs and wants and make for a captured audience when trying to educate a consumer when he is merely in to purchase a package of gum. The distribution channel is fascinating to watch and the health care sector has been forced to rethink their entire culture and mindset. I foresee the day when the larger grocery chains will also be entering this market as population health becomes more focused and where the milkman may be delivering more than milk to your hands.

  • I have been thinking about what is content marketing:
    Storefront window displays
    Supermarket shelves with products
    Catalogs
    TV and radio shows that get us to watch/hear commercials
    Print newspapers and magazines and web content that gets us to view ads

    so like social business, it has been around since BC and was hijacked by modern marketers to make a quick buck and sell books and services! lol

  • T60Productions …said no ninja/Jedi ever. 😉

  • belllindsay T60Productions As co-founder of Guru2Guru (or, G2G) with the venerable @http://www.livefyre.com/profile/3973754/, I’ve seen the increasing need for experts to have experts they can turn to. Happy to announce we’ll also be launching Jedi2Jedi, Ninja2Ninja, and GunsNRosesKook2GunsNRosesKook. Hope you will put aside your strong feelings and join us!

  • Don_Roy As Howie indicates, my problem with content marketing is the emphasis on “all I have to do is produce great content and that’s it.”

    Unfortunately, it isn’t enough.

    I do agree with you about where the audience consumes content. Part of a great content distribution strategy, which must be a fluid living document that you aren’t afraid to adjust, is driving the content to where the right readers (used broadly), be that Facebook, Youtube, or some other platform.

  • Howie Goldfarb Lazy marketers, Howie – lazy marketers. 🙂

  • Danny Brown Howie Goldfarb Hey the Webvan tattoo on my forehead is something I’ll be proud of forever. They really get me, man.

  • SusynEliseDuris

    Thanks for writing this, Clay. I love this article to death. I wrote something similar yesterday in my blog. There have been a lot of posts on the vines recently that content marketing is the golden ticket. That’s ludicrous. The myth is “if you create content, they will buy”. Marketing/Content Marketing has always been about developing the relationship, helping and nurturing the buyer on their journey. Content is not the short-cut to revenues. It takes focus and investment to getting to know your buyer and giving them what they want. Content, done right, can help. Great work. Bravo.

  • AlinaKelly

    I consider Spin Sucks the perfect example of the “organically grown” blog. After a mere eight or so years of working night and day and engaging across virtually every channel in every form known to man and woman, it grew organically (please don’t stab me in the eyes). That’s just what I’ve come to understand as the meaning of “organic” around these parts. Hard. Freakin’. Work.

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